Is Parental Abduction Ever Legal?
Parental abduction is a legal term. When a parent — for any reason, whether it be noble or reprehensible — takes, conceals, or retains the custody of a child for a relatively significant period of time in violation of the rights of the child’s other parent, it is classified as parental abduction. Refusing to let a child’s other parent take the child on a scheduled dinner outing because that parent is drunk would likely not be considered parental abduction. Concealing a child away so that the child cannot spend a court-ordered summer vacation with the child’s other parent might be treated as parental abduction by the court.
Keeping Your Child from Harm
There are times when parental abduction is legal due to a specific defense. For example, very temporarily concealing a child in order to keep him or her from the child’s abusive other parent may be legal if the child is at risk of immediate harm and the parent who is concealing the child contacts both an attorney and law enforcement within a matter of hours of violating the child’s custody or visitation agreement. Most of the time, if an emergency has occurred and the parent engaging in abduction has no malicious intent, court-ordered custody or visitation time may be temporarily infringed upon without legal repercussions.
If Circumstances Are Not Urgent
It is important to understand that the range of “acceptable” parental abduction circumstances are quite narrow. In general, unless an emergency or immediate danger is impacting the ability of a parent to honor the terms of a child custody or visitation order, these terms must be respected. If a parent has serious concerns about a child’s wellbeing but that child is not in immediate danger, it is generally a good idea to contact an attorney about modifying the child’s custody or visitation agreement. Failure to honor the terms of existing court orders in non-emergency situations can cause your ability to remain a “fit parent” in the eyes of the court to become compromised. As a result, it is important to explore your legal options with a child custody lawyer, instead of violating court orders whenever you and your child are not in immediate danger.
Legal Guidance Is Available
If you have questions about parental abduction, please do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced family law attorney immediately. Whether you have concerns about your child’s safety and are hoping to keep your child away from his or her other parent, or you have concerns that your child’s other parent is going to illegally keep your child away from you, your situation is urgent. Please do not wait until abduction seems imminent or has already taken place before you obtain experienced legal guidance.
Even when parental abduction is legal, it is not a trivial matter and must be treated with the greatest sense of both urgency and care. Please do not hesitate to meet with a lawyer today in order to bring clarity to your situation and explore the healthiest, strongest possible legal tools available to you and your family.